Step Right Up: How to Feign Political Competence in Your 20s

By Krissy Eliot

In the Internet age, saying “I don’t know” about a political issue is considered socially unacceptable. After all, if we have all this information at our fingertips, the least we can do is a quick Google search. Like, really. It’s the least we can do. And the least is what most people do.

It’s hard to take a long look in the mirror and see blatant indecision staring back at you. So to avoid this self-reflection, there are ways to fake political knowledge. You know you don’t know anything about politics, but nobody else has to know that.

Gaining a reputation of being “well-informed” is essential to developing your personal political brand on social media. Don’t worry: The fact that you’re in your 20s and have virtually no life experience won’t be a factor online, where “the youth” still rule.

Start to establish your political cred publicly by posting your political opinions and reactions to the news as status updates. Because if it’s not recorded on social media, it might as well not have happened. You need to strike when the iron is still hot (and so are you, since attractive people get more followers and therefore more respect). One way to do this is by posting links to articles you find. Be sure to defend them vehemently, as if you wrote them or you spent more than 15 minutes thinking the issues through. Passion is everything when it comes to the appearance of being informed.

After a heated comment debate with your childhood neighbor changes your mind on health care reform, delete your Facebook account for three days. Make your friends think “something’s happened.” Come back with a plan to renounce the candidate you originally supported, for reasons “too complicated to discuss via comments.” Then type the line, “@candidatesoandso, you’re dead to me,” into Twitter.

Remember—you don’t actually need to go deep into explanation, because you’re creating the illusion of depth. This is politics, baby.

You may wonder to yourself: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If an ex-supporter condemns a geezer on the Internet and the geezer is too old to get on Twitter, does the tweet twitter? Don’t get weighed down by these negative thoughts. Remember—you don’t actually need to go deep into explanation, because you’re creating the illusion of depth. This is politics, baby.

Post the tweet. Block all who oppose you.

Back up your now-established Internet reputation by moving on to real life—and beef up your party cred. And I don’t mean political party cred—I mean frat party cred. Your friends will have already assumed you’re smart from all the links you post online, but seeing you opine in real life with a drink in your hand will solidify it. Avoid offhand comments about homeland security (unless you’re talking about the show Homeland), and keep the focus on pop culture issues like legalizing marijuana. Brush up on this stuff by watching a few episodes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and a YouTube video of some stand-up comedian discussing the benefits of anarchy. Follow this up by drawing a loose correlation between the rising prices of cheap beer and class war. You’ll have all the guys making personal trips to the keg for you in no time.

It’s important to establish this cred at work, too (if you’ve managed to actually get a non-minimum-wage job in this economy, that is). When at lunch with a group of your co-worker peers, tell everyone that you base your vote on cold, hard Internet facts—such as how surveys show that Hillary’s voice is ranked by most male grad students as “very shrill.” Insist that you’ve fact-checked every claim you’ve ever supported, which means you’ve read at least one other article claiming the same fact to be true. Mention that you “freelance” in your spare time and that you’ve posted a couple of “articles” complaining about Donald Trump on your blog. Whenever someone brings up a political issue, you say “I was thinking of doing a piece on that.” Don’t worry about being held accountable for the claim. Follow-through doesn’t matter for conversation at Panera Bread.

When someone asks who you’re voting for, say you’re still “undecided” because you have trouble aligning with any established political party or ideology. Don’t mention that this is because you don’t have a clue about any of it.

Do mention that you don’t like how people are lumped into two main parties based on shallow assumptions—for instance, if you’re pro-choice, you’re probably a Democrat; or if you’re pro-gun, then you’re probably Republican. Rally against this by insisting you’re above it all. As a young bisexual woman with green hair and a tongue piercing, you’re totally, like, “intersectional” and you associate with a range of identities. When someone asks you how you can possibly exist apart from your class, race, or gender “identity,” distract from the topic by saying they’re a bigot, and put that thought on hold for later.

You’ll figure it out.

And even if you don’t, rumor has it that your vote doesn’t matter anyway, and all this turmoil is probably for naught. So throw a blanket of sloppy statements over that self-reflection. You’ll have time to cringe over your 20s later. And so will everyone else.

Krissy Eliot is an editor at California who is currently biding time in her 20s.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.
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